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Editorial: Japan needs specific diplomatic strategy toward China

A resolution expressing concern over human rights issues in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and other areas of China was adopted in a plenary session of Japan's House of Representatives by majority vote.

    The resolution seeks Beijing's accountability for "serious human rights situations" in Xinjiang, Tibet, Hong Kong and elsewhere in a way the international community would be willing to accept. It is not legally binding, but it is politically significant that Japan's highest governing body made its intentions clear.

    It began when conservatives in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) sought the adoption of a resolution condemning Beijing in spring 2021. But because the administrations of both Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his successor Prime Minister Fumio Kishida took a cautious stance on the issue out of concern for its impact on foreign diplomacy, the resolution was shelved in 2021's ordinary session of the Diet and extraordinary session of the Diet in December.

    Frustrated, conservatives strongly urged that a resolution be adopted before the Beijing Winter Olympics began on Feb. 4.

    However, the country name "China," and the words "human rights abuses" and "denounce" were removed from the resolution's final version. Expressions in the resolution were softened after discussion between the LDP and its junior coalition partner, Komeito.

    The West has also expressed concern over Uyghur human rights issues and the clampdown on pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong. It is not unnatural for the Japanese legislature to express its views on the same issues.

    But it was clear that both the Japanese government and the LDP lack diplomatic strategies toward China.

    As tensions between the United States and China escalate, we are faced with how to deal with a neighboring country enhancing its heavy-handed political stance. Despite this, we see striking cases of the administration bending under pressure from conservatives, but do not see the government's specific principles or policies.

    The government's decision on how to handle the Beijing Olympics is symbolic. When conservatives demanded the government stage a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, the administration opted not to send senior government officials to the Beijing Games.

    There has been discontent among conservatives that "the prime minister takes too conciliatory an attitude toward China," and Prime Minister Kishida, who wants to stabilize his administration's position, has no choice but to take their views into consideration. One's stance on China has become a factor in who has power in the party.

    But simply opposing a country's policies does not facilitate diplomacy. There is a need for a tactful strategy that does not close the circuits for dialogue, but also gets across what needs to be communicated.

    Loudly making claims to appeal to one's constituents will not progress diplomacy with China. What is important now to more strongly urge a halt to human rights violations is to create personal networks through exchanges between legislators.

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